Media Tips: Responding to a Journalist

Responding to a journalist: Check out this quick guide to help you develop a process when each media call or email comes in. This 1, 2, 3 guide to responding to a journalist is just the start, but it is a good start in setting you up for success. If you don’t already have one in place, create a media call sheet. It doesn’t have to be too fancy, just record every media call that comes in and how it is resolved. Use the information from the guild to help you build your form or email me and I’ll send you mine!

Assemble the Basics

  • Ask the reporter’s name, media outlet, phone number, and story deadline.
  • Ask what the story is about and how the interview will be used.
  • If video, traditionally TV or radio, inquire about the interview format (live, taped, podcast).
  • If you’re the spokesperson but are not prepared to talk, set a later time, but respect the reporter’s deadline. Just 15 minutes will help you get ready.
  • If you’re not the expert, then help the reporter find the right person.
  • This interview is an opportunity to improve your brand reputation for your target audience. It is also an opportunity to create a better or new relationship with a reporter.
  • When responding to the journalist, be sure to keep their name handy, understand how they like to communicate, text message, phone, email and try to adhere to their preference.

Be Prepared

  • Before you do the interview, take a few minutes to write your brief messages. If you don’t take the time to write them down, it will be tough to remember them later.
  • Avoid jargon; use lay, everyday terms.
  • Make sure your points are clear and concise.
  • Prior to your interview, do some research on the reporter’s past stories. Is this an investigative journalist or trade writer. Do they like anecdotes or facts and figures.
  • Be ready to support your message with a few examples.
  • Be ready to support your message with facts.
  • Keep in mind what your audience needs to know and how the topic impacts people’s lives
  • Anticipate tough questions the reporter might ask.
  • Practice delivering your messages.

Make Yourself Credible

  • Whether on TV, radio, or print, stand for the interview.
  • Offer background on the subject at hand if the reporter seems to need it.
  • Assume everything you say is on the record, from the time you meet or talk with the reporter until he or she leaves the room or hangs up. Double-check to make sure the dial tone has returned.
  • State your position in favorable terms, even if a reporter’s questions turn negative or sound loaded.
  • Speak with authority and energy, particularly for TV or radio interviews.
  • If the reporter’s questions veer off track, politely steer the interview back to your messages.
  • If you’re not sure the reporter understood your main points, ask him or her to repeat them.

When you do your interview, remember to have an opening thought ready to share. Think about summing up your story in 2 to 3 minutes, hitting your key message and getting the whole interview off to a great positive start.

Always leave a reporter with a parting statement. Make sure to use the most important message that you wanted to deliver. This last message is your last opportunity to get the point across. Check back at No Red Lights for the follow-up steps to your interview!

If you don’t have a dedicated person doing media relations for your organization or you need help, please reach out to MPR. We would be happy to talk with you about what we do and how we might be able to help. Murnahan Public Relations, 420 Throckmorton St, Ste 200, Fort Worth, TX 76102 – Call us: 817-502-1080 – Email: info@murnahanpr.com

By Brian Murnahan

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